The blog of the Young Academics of the Association of the European Schools of Planning

The Environmental Assessment Methods: Part 2 *

Environmental assessment methods are important tools to quantify the environmental impacts related to products or services.

In the following, some environmental assessment methods related to the building sector are briefly presented.

Green Building

In 1996 in Canada the Green Building Association has developed an environmental complex evaluation tool based on the most recent and accredited estimation methods and on worldwide recognized ecological criteria (Francese, 2007). The Green Building (GB) method evaluates – through the use of some indicators – the positive and negative effects of a building on the environment. The GB uses thresholds for the evaluation. The building performances are represented through the use of quantitative or qualitative parameters. For the estimation of impacts the evaluator rates different characteristics. The score is from -2 to +5. The negative scores (-2 and -1) are attributed every time the performances of a building are lower than those imposed by law. Zero is the minimum acceptable value; besides, +3 corresponds to the best practice and +4 and +5 are the best possible solutions without an increase of the costs. The GB can be adapted to the local conditions of a particular environment, maintaining the same initial structure. Every year the GB Council updates the evaluation tool. The GB tool is divided into three levels:

  1. Issues [1];
  2. Use and management [2];
  3. Criteria [3].

First of all, the data about the place where a building is settled or its use and the context have to be collected in the first worksheet (ID) (Green Building Council). The second worksheet is about context. It contains all the information about the environment and is constituted by 32 requirements capable to identify the relationship between the building and the environment, the urban context and the site (Francese, 2007). The third worksheet is called ‘vote’ and it refers to the first level of evaluation. It is constituted by two levels of score: one is attributed by default by the software and the other one is attributed by the designer. The worksheet 4 is about the energy use and production. The worksheet 5 reports the benchmarks in which every choice about the design should be restrained. The GB tool has different benchmarks in relation to the different national or local laws. The worksheet 6 is called ‘Area’ and in it the data about the surfaces of the building should be reported. In the worksheet 7 – Archi – all the data about the architecture of a building have to be reported: data about materials, use or re-use of some components or materials, natural enlightenment and so on. The worksheet 8 – Tech – is about the energy use and systems. In worksheet 9 are reported all the data about materials to re-use or re-cycle. Worksheet 10 is dedicated to the building operations and management. The data required in the worksheet 11 are about life cycle; besides, in the worksheet 12 all the performances are evaluated.

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Method)

BREEAM is a voluntary environmental evaluation impact method. It has been developed in 1990 and it can be applied to both existing and new buildings. It establishes standards for best practice for sustainable building construction.

It evaluates the performances of buildings in the following areas (BREEAM global, 2009):

  1. Management;
  2. Energy use and carbon dioxide emissions;
  3. Health and wellbeing;
  4. Pollution;
  5. Transport;
  6. Land use and ecology;
  7. Materials;
  8. Water.

The designers are encouraged to maximize the performances of the building in order to reach a high score. The rate can be assigned to the building can be:

  1. Acceptable;
  2. Good;
  3. Very good;
  4. Excellent.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

LEED is the American evaluation tool developed in 2000. It is a tool for the evaluation of energy and environmental quality of buildings. It is a voluntary assessment method, even though many new buildings are assessed through the use of this evaluation method. LEED is a tool for designers and manager of construction processes of commercial, residential and existing buildings. It can be used for new buildings and for the evaluation of the maintenance phase or replacement phase. LEED is organized in checklists divided into typologies of ecological problems. For each fulfilled requirement about the building sustainability some credits are attributed. The total of the credits corresponds to the achieved level of sustainability. The level is reported in a certificate. The criteria used for the environmental quality of a building are grouped in six categories:

  1. Sustainable settlement;
  2. Water efficiency use;
  3. Energy and atmosphere;
  4. Materials and resources;
  5. Indoor quality;
  6. Design and innovation.

Each category needs one or more prescriptive requirements that have to be fulfilled and a number of environmental performance requirements that are necessary in order to attribute a score to the building (D'Alonzo, 2007).

LEED has been used in an updated release for a pilot project in which urban areas (i.e., neighborhood) are evaluated in terms of smart growth, new urbanism and green buildings (U.S. Green Building Council, 2010).

The ITACA Protocol

The ITACA protocol is based on performance requirements, rules and parameters to achieve or fulfill. Moreover, also some final achievements are identified, such as the decrease in energy use below some standards. The final version of the protocol is constituted by guidelines collected in seventy evaluation forms for seventy requirements of environmental compatibility. There is also a simplified version of this protocol in which the fundamental requirements for the achievement of the eco-sustainability of the project are reported in twenty-eight forms. In the simplified version the evaluation areas are the following:

  1. Outdoor environmental quality;
  2. Resources use;
  3. Environmental loads;
  4. Indoor environmental quality;
  5. Quality of the service;
  6. Quality of the management;
  7. Transport.

Each requirement can be rated from -2 to +5. Zero is the value relative to the fulfillment of the existing laws. Negative values are used when the minimum standard is not achieved; while, positive scores are assigned when the minimum standards are overcome. In the forms are also reported: evaluation area; requirement category; need to fulfill, the performance indicator chosen, indicator unit, methods, the tools for the verification and the strategies used as reference. In the same form a specific area is for the evaluation of the performances expressed as qualitative judgments. To the qualitative judgments are associated values from -2 to +5 and the referenced regulations and laws and the final score are also indicated (ITACA. Istituto per la Trasparenza l'Aggiornamento e la Certificazione degli Appalti, 2004).

SB 100

Sustainable Building 100 actions – called SB100 – is a method developed by ANAB (National Association of Bioecological Architecture) for the energetic and sustainability certification in the construction field. The SB method is constituted by a list of goals and the path to achieving them; it is also constituted by a checklist for testing the efficiency. The goals are collected in three areas:

  1. Biological;
  2. Ecological;
  3. Social.

The goals to reach are divided into ten categories:

  1. Energy;
  2. Water;
  3. Materials;
  4. Waste;
  5. Health;
  6. Comfort;
  7. Context;
  8. Information;
  9. Costs;
  10. Management.

The method is based on a list of actions and performances for reaching the goals defined in the guidelines. The actions are 100; several of them are typically used in the best construction practice; while, some others need a particular attention. A checklist is the tool able to control the efficiency of the actions scoring them through pre-defined values. Who uses the tool attributes one point to each action. If the performances have a quality equal to a standard the value is zero; while, if the actions have the aim to enhance the level imposed by the standards, the score is +1. If the performances do not reach the standards their value is -1 (ANAB). The final score defines the value of the building. To the final score corresponds a class of sustainability expressed with a letter from A to G and to a code from green to red in accordance with the rules applied by the EU for the household appliances. SB100 can evaluate both the maintenance and the construction phase of a building. It is also possible to evaluate different buildings with different uses. SB 100 is able to evaluate the energy use in accordance with the EU instruction December 16th, 2002 n. 91 and the ordinance n.192 August 2005. The rate of sustainability of a building and its energy certificate are easy to understand and can be easily noted, because they are applied to a sign on the building façade. A highly sustainable building will be scored with AA, a medium quality building will have a sign 3B or 3C and so on.


Francese, D. (2007). Architettura e vivibilità. Modelli di verifica, principi di biocompatibilità,
esempi di opere per il rispetto ambientale. Franco Angeli.

Green Building Council. (n.d.). Green Building. Retrieved 2008, from Green Building: http://greenbuilding.ca/gbc2k/gbtool/gbtool-main.htm

BREEAM global. (2009). BREEAM. Retrieved 2009, from BREEAM: www.breeam.org

D'Alonzo, A. (2007). Il peso edilizio, Valutazione dell'impronta ecologica ed etica del manufatto
edilizio ad uso abitativo. Gangemi Editore.

U.S. Green Building Council. (2010). LEED for Neighborhood Development. Retrieved 15 September, 2010, from http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=148

ITACA. Istituto per la Trasparenza l'Aggiornamento e la Certificazione degli Appalti. (2004).

Protocollo ITACA. Per la valutazione delle qualità energetica ed ambientale di un edificio. Le aree di valutazione e le schede. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from: www.dapt.ing.unibo.it/mastereco/fp_ancab/Protocollo.pdf

ANAB. (n.d.). Retrieved 2007, from ANAB architettura al naturale: http://www.anab.it

[1] It accounts the resources use, energy use, indoor air quality, systems quality, management and economy

[2] It also considers the category that are in ‘Issues’, for example, the resources use relating to the building LCA evaluation: land use, use of drinkable water etc.

[3] They are structured as data to use in the evaluation matrix

*Rearranged text from:

Susca, T. (2011). Evaluation of the Surface Albedo in a LCA Multi-scale Approach. The Case Study of Green, White and Black Roofs in New York City. Ph.D. Thesis.

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[…] tackle the physics of UHI. Following from a post in 2016, Tiziana Susca continued her review of key Environmental Assessment methods, covering leading international certification standards such as Green Building, BREEAM and LEED, […]

[…] tackle the physics of UHI. Following from a post in 2016, Tiziana Susca continued her review of key Environmental Assessment methods, covering leading international certification standards such as Green Building, BREEAM and LEED, […]
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